GINA Law Passes, Will Afflict Insurers and Employers

On April 24, the Senate voted 95-to-0 to pass the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA), which bans insurers and employers from taking genetic information into account.  The Economist blog suggests it could doom private individual insurance in the future, as people who test negative for genetic risk factors for diseases refuse to buy health insurance policies that are priced the same for them as for riskier people who test positive for those genetic risk factors, effectively forcing those with lower risks to subsidize those with higher risks.  Such adverse selection would cause the market for such insurance policies to dry up. 

Last year, I criticized the GINA bill in the National Law Journal for lacking a “direct threat” exception that would allow employers not to use people with hazardous conditions (like a genetic tendency to seizures) for jobs where they could unintentionally cause harm to the public (like a person prone to seizures driving a bus).  Existing laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act contain such an exception.  Greg Conko, who studies biotech law and policy, pointed out that there was no need for the GINA bill.  He noted there is no pattern of insurers or employers misusing genetic information.